When a student has completed all of the requirements of a program and earns a degree from BCC, we expect them to have attained a certain level of knowledge, skill and ability (KSA’s) to be worthy of a diploma. Traditionally, if a student has earned sufficient grades in all of their necessary courses, the implication throughout academia is that they have acquired the KSA’s necessary for a degree. Grades, however, mask how well students have achieved the outcomes we most value. This is where academic assessment fits is.
Academic assessment is an attempt to answer the fundamental question, “How well are students learning what we expect them to learn?” Answering this question well, however, is sometimes not as easy as it may appear initially. As implied in the question, assessment requires academics to clearly state what the expectations for learning are, and to devise appropriate measures that will yield reasonably valid and reliable information. Tom Angelo (1995), may have defined assessment best when he wrote,
“Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning. It involves making our expectations explicit and public; setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality; systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches those expectations and standards; and using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance.”
Academic assessment works best when it is designed and led by faculty with appropriate support from administration. It is also important to keep in mind that academic assessment is not an evaluation of individual faculty or courses; it is primarily designed to improve student learning in courses and programs. The links to left explain BCC’s five-step assessment process and provide useful tools and resources to help faculty engage in student learning assessment.